Three Keys

Try as I might, I was unable to limit my review of Three Keys by Kelly Yang to three keys to its greatness.  I started with It’s about a goat named Scape and the issue of immigration and how it’s easy to blame those in a weak spot; It proves that although most people don’t change, some people do; and It shares how small interactions have the power to change minds and to make a big impact for those vulnerable to exploitation, abuses, misinformation, and hopelessness. But I realized I couldn’t stop with that short list.  Yang’s book goes beyond any simple storyline to capture someRead More →

Jasbinder Bilan’s debut novel for middle grade readers, Asha and the Spirit Bird, is one rich with cultural detail and adventure. Set in a village in India called Moormandali, Bilan includes many Hindi and Punjabi words to add authenticity to the telling of this coming of age, epic journey. The story features eleven-year-old Asha Kumar and her twelve-year-old best friend, Jeevan Singh Gill.  The two children sneak away from home to travel from their village in the foothills of the Himalayas to find Asha’s papa in Zandapur. The journey calls on the children’s perseverance, courage, hope, and conviction that they will be successful.  Along theRead More →

Growing up, we all face conflicts about our identities.  For those who are unsure of their pasts and parentage, those conflicts escalate.  Sophie Anderson explores this truth in her fantasy tale for young readers, The Girl Who Speaks Bear. As the plot unfolds, twelve-year-old Yanka feels alienated by her unusual size and strength, unsure whether to attribute those changes to a growth spurt or to some anomaly.  In the village, she is often reminded of her differences, despite the efforts of her best friend Sasha to include her and to remind her that she is strong and brave and kind.  Because she hears the callRead More →

In a word, Tim Tingle’s recent book, Doc and the Detective in Graveyard Treasure is a FUN book!  It features Timmy, a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma who is a twelve-year-old detective.  Made for action, Timmy finds waiting the most difficult part of detective work.  Tingle’s fast-paced writing style propels the reader into the midst of Detective Timmy’s life as he learns that sometimes bad ideas lead to good information and as he struggles to find proof for his hunches and suppositions. When a group of thieves start to prey on the elderly and Timmy’s friend, Dr. Moore gets targeted, Timmy can’t sitRead More →

Born to Austrian and Indonesian parents, Alexa is nearly ten years old and attends Nelson Elementary School in London.  She dreams of having the best job in the world: “being a reporter and getting to solve mysteries and go on adventures” (2) just like Tintin and Snowy, her favorite comic book characters. One day, a boy with lion’s eyes joins Alexa’s class and sits in the back.  Intrigued by the mysterious boy, Ahmet, Alexa and her friends—Josie, Tom, and Michael—set out to discover where Ahmet is from and how he came to be in London.  During their discovery phase, the group learns not only thatRead More →

Jacqueline Woodson’s recent middle-grade novel, Harbor Me imparts how story holds the power to heal because it helps us make sense of the world.  Woodson tells a tale about rising from tragedy and how tragedy not only takes away but bestows gifts. Similar to other novels that use trees as metaphors for survival and interconnected relationships—novels like Hidden Roots by Joseph Bruchac, Wishtree by Katherine Applegate, and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith—Woodson’s book alludes to Ailanthus trees with their extensive root systems that help not only to ground them but to lend endurance in harsh conditions. Set in Brooklyn, the native landRead More →

The child of first-generation Chinese immigrants to the United States, Kelly Yang writes a work of fiction, Front Desk, based on her own life so that her son could know her story and take inspiration, not fear, from the life of shame and pain and poverty and joy she experienced as a child.  Yang tells her story through Mia Tang and Jason Tao to open the eyes and fill the hearts of readers, giving them empathy for people from all backgrounds and walks of life and arousing in them the courage needed to stand up to injustice when they see it. Jason’s dad, Mr. YaoRead More →

Just as Rick Riordan in his Percy Jackson series employs allusions to Greek mythology, Roshani Chokshi takes her readers on a journey with twelve-year-old Aru Shah, who grew up to her mother’s story-telling with characters from Hindu mythology. Dr. Krithika Shah is an archaeologist and museum curator for the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture.  She and her daughter have living quarters on site, and Aru’s favorite exhibit is the Hall of the Gods, filled with a hundred statues of various Hindu deities. In the first of a Pandava Novel series, Aru Shah and the End of Time, readers meet Aru, who wishes to vanquishRead More →

Three stories told, three countries represented, and three lives profiled.  Despite the years that separate them, the trinity of humanity featured in Alan Gratz’s novel Refugee experience remarkable and horrifying similarities with intersecting conclusions. Imagine feeling unwanted, dirty, and illegal.   Imagine hearing sirens, soldiers, shouting, gunfire, breaking glass, and screams daily.  Imagine thinking that if you want to live, you have to leave your homeland and all that is familiar.  These are the realities of three refugees and their families: Josef Landau, a barely thirteen Jewish boy living in Germany in 1939 under the reign of Adolph Hitler; Isabel Fernandez, a pre-teen Cuban citizen enduringRead More →